Oh my aching body! A natural consequence of aging can be a change in the way we feel. Sometimes we have aches and pains and we aren’t sure of the cause or how to get rid of them. Other times we feel just fine and there’s nothing that a good night’s sleep won’t cure.
Natural causes of aches and pains
A number of natural changes happen as we age that cause aches and pains. Here are a few things we can expect from our bodies:
- Loss of bone density and natural calcium for post-menopausal women.
- Arthritis in the joints.
- Decreased muscle tone to move the bones in the body, especially the long bones of the arms and legs.
- Deterioration of the cartilage in joints such as the knees due to aging and natural wear and tear.
- Decreased agility and mobility due to one or more of the above factors.
Preventing aches and pains
There are many things older adults can do to prevent or lessen aches and pains. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Have a yearly physical examination to ensure optimum health and identify any hidden issues. Early diagnosis may prevent further complications or even eliminate potential causes of aches and pains before they occur.
- Eat a balanced diet and eat regularly to ensure you’re getting all the essential vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy mind and body.
- Maintain your optimum weight for your height and bone structure—this means not being underweight, as well as not being overweight.
- Get moving—both mentally and physically. The more active you are, the less chance you have of becoming sore in your joints or gaining those extra pounds that are hard to shed.
- Join a fitness group or try a yoga class. If you are not a “joiner,” buy some inexpensive yoga DVDs or exercise/dancercise DVDs that can be followed along in the privacy and comfort of your own home.
- Golf, walk, jog, power walk, swim, try tai chi or any other physical activity that is not too strenuous, but that allows you to keep moving and remain flexible.
Some other healthy tips
Have you ever watched a dog or cat when they first wake in the morning or from a nap? They always stretch and get those muscles and bones limbered up before they get going. That’s a great idea for humans as well.
Before you get out of bed or when you’re sitting on the side of the bed, stretch your limbs. Raise your arms above your head and move your legs up and down. When you stand, do a few shallow knee bends and stretch out your back and upper torso.
Supplements may help
There are many over-the-counter vitamins, minerals and herbs you can consider. Some will be just right for you, but be sure to ask your physician or pharmacist before you take them as they may conflict with your prescription medications.
Hot or cold therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and creams or acetaminophen-based medicines may be taken in moderation for aches and pains. But again, ask a trusted health professional who knows your situation, your lifestyle and what you’re already taking.
The key is moderation!
We all want to stay as young and fit as we possibly can, but part of aging gracefully is ensuring that when we do get those aches and pains, we acknowledge them and plan activities carefully so we deal with any discomfort in the best way possible.
Think ahead and ask if buildings are easily accessible or how long the walk is from the parking lot or the bus stop. Ask for a transport chair if you feel you might get tired too easily and always wear comfortable clothing and footwear. And remember to adhere to treatment regimes and routines, even when you’re away from home. Missing scheduled medications or simply staying up too late or missing a meal may make a difference.
Ask what is best for you in terms of exercise and medication or diet. We can harm our bodies by doing too much exercise (or not enough!) or taking an over-the-counter remedy that is not the best choice for us.
And remember, as we age, aches and pains take longer to heal than when we were younger, so be cautiously optimistic but don’t overdo it!